Fears that secondaries will dominate super union

Amanda Godfrey and her staff see little need for a union merger. They already work well as a team. Richard Margrave reports

A talented professional with drive and ambition, Amanda Godfrey recalls that her classroom union, "threw me out when I became head".

Today she leads an enthusiastic and dedicated team of staff and parents as head of Mandeville primary in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

A former member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers - a union that refuses to allow in heads - she now belongs to the National Association of Head Teachers.

Ms Godfrey understands the arguments for the heads' unions merging, or heads becoming part of a new super teacher union, but doesn't have great feelings on the issue, except for a fear that the secondary sector would want to run whatever organisation that resulted.

"My experience is that when primary schools and secondary schools are linked, things become secondary-dominated."

She joined Mandeville as it emerged from special measures and is in no doubt as to the secret of its improvement: teamwork.

Staff are encouraged to join unions, so they can get independent advice, but while the unions had "direct impact" on her former schools in London, she finds membership in Hertfordshire very diffused and has "no consequence on my life at all".

Mandeville is a school where the leadership and other staff clearly gel. Cathy Longhurst, a teacher at the school since September, praises the links between staff at the school. She says communications are very good between the entire team - teaching, non-teaching, support staff and the head and the senior management team. "Everybody shares the workload. We know the reasons behind any controversial decisions and that avoids any problems. I don't think we would have any need for the unions."

A new super union, with or without heads, attracts support only if it could deliver a better work-life balance, but staff are sceptical.

Rather than hearing about conditions from any union, they suggest, policy-makers would be far more influenced by seeing the job first-hand.

Teacher Lynn Atkins wants to see "people with clout" visit the classroom.

"If they saw what we did, the hours we put in and the effort, and how much other people care about people's children," she says, "education would be transformed."

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